Low spending, combined with massive harvests and foreign competition, have slashed Vietnam’s giant freshwater prawn prices 25-50% on some markets.
Southern farmers in the Mekong Delta are direct-selling the prawns for VND90,000-100,000 (US$3.59-3.99) per kilogram, 25% cheaper than the same period last year.
Hung, who owns a 1-hectare giant freshwater prawn farm in the Delta’s Tien Giang Province, says his harvest this year has been the highest in three years, totaling 500 kilograms.
However, at VND90,000 a kilogram, he only made a dozen million dong profit in sales. “Prices for prawn have never been so low,” he says.
Similarly, Hanh, a shrimp farmer in Kien Giang Province’s Vinh Thuan District, says he harvested his two hectares of white shrimp, black tiger prawn and giant freshwater prawn, but earned almost nothing selling them because of low prices.
In traditional markets and online platforms, giant freshwater prawns are listed at VND105,000-210,000 per kilogram depending on size, down 20-50% from the previous harvest.
According to Hanh, a shrimp merchant at Pham Van Hai Market in Ho Chi Minh City, top quality giant freshwater prawns sized 6-10 pieces per kilogram cost VND425,000 a kilo at the beginning of the year, but now they sell for only VND210,000 a kilogram.
Smaller prawns, size 12-15 pieces per kilogram are listed at VND150,000 per kilo, also down 50% year-on-year.
Low consumption and oversupply have been blamed for the price drop.
Hoang, who usually buys the crustacean from the Mekong Delta, says that last year, he sold two to three tons of the prawn per day to retailers at HCMC’s Binh Dien Market, double the amount he’s been able to sell this year.
“Low demand and plummeting prices have caused me huge losses.”
Hiep, another shrimp merchant, says he bought the prawn from farmers at VND120,000 a kilogram but had to sell for VND100,000-105,000 a kilogram due to low demand.
According to the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Kien Giang has four districts with large-scale giant freshwater prawn farms: Vinh Thuan, An Bien, An Minh and U Minh Thuong.
The crustacean, once staple export to China, Cambodia and Thailand, now struggles due to weakening global demand and stronger competition from other countries.
Kien Giang currently has 136,000 hectares of brackish water ponds used for shrimp farming, of which 106,000 hectares are shrimp-rice farmland that alternates between black tiger prawns, giant freshwater prawns, white shrimp and sea crabs depending on the season.
In the first 10 months this year, shrimp harvests totaled 105,000 tons, 95% of the production target for 2023.